Stress and energy depletion are one of the biggest afflictions plaguing today’s 24/7 society, which is partly why successful model and AfN-accredited nutritionist, Sarah Ann Macklin, founded the Be Well Collective. Her wellbeing initiative works to support models throughout the stressful times of Fashion Week (and beyond), but its message of self-care and nutritional awareness applies to most of us living our breakneck lifestyles today.
At the launch of her Fashion Fix breakfast at W London, (an immunity-boosting, stress-reducing, protein-rich menu Macklin’s curated for all visitors – not just the fash pack), she hosted a panel on ways to maximise mental wellbeing.
Alongside experts Dr Nick Knight, a London-based GP; Howard Napper, TEDx speaker of ‘The Art of Lifestyle Medicine’; and Jillian Lavender, founder of the London Meditation Centre, Macklin discussed the importance of nutrition, sleep, self-care and understanding anxiety during times of stress. Here are some stress management lessons we learnt from the event that will resonate with many.
1. Prioritise nutrition
Maklin notes that nutrition impacts mental health massively and wants to emphasise the importance of nutritional awareness during stressful times, when prioritising a healthy diet is often dismissed. Nourishing your body will not only give you energy but keep your mood stable and aid more restful sleep. It starts not with counting calories, but with looking at nutrient-rich ingredients, while including all food groups. During stressful periods especially, go low on the refined sugars (tempting as they are at those times) and higher on Omega 3s. Not only good for skin, researchers have found that cultures eating foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression.
2. Drink enough water
In addition to a balanced diet, Macklin wants you to drink more water. “When we’re not having enough water our blood volume level drops and the heart has to work harder to keep us awake.” If you were tired before, you’ll be making matters worse without water. She notes that “if you’re thirsty you’re already two per cent dehydrated,” – so always avoid getting to that point. The easiest tip in the book.
3. Exercise, but not too much (or too late)
Like nutrition, exercise can significantly impact mental health and plays a part in how you manage stress. However, if you already have a healthy regime, don’t try and match your normal volume of exercise during busy and stressful periods. Dr Knight explains, “you’ll be exhausted more than normal and this is the time for maintenance”. Over-training can compromise your immune system, so use it as a means to de-stress, nothing more. Also, when it comes to improving your sleep, avoid exercising before bed – “the ideal time to stop exercise is five hours before”, advises Knight.
4. Maximise the little sleep you get
If you can’t get more sleep, get better sleep. The ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin rises at night, but drops with stimulation. This is why you need to avoid caffeine in the evenings (even ‘decaf’ tea, which Macklin says can still contain a high amount of caffeine) and sources of blue light which impact on your circadian rhythm. Set you smart phone to ‘night mode’, and if you’re using a computer in the evenings (not in your bedroom, ideally) download f.lux, free software that warms up your computer display. Your body temperature is also important – too hot and it can slow the release of melatonin, so avoid eating spicy food in the evenings and having hot showers/baths before bed. Instead try a cooler bath or foot soak with flakes of magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant.
5. Find a meditation that works for you
Jillian Lavender, who teaches Vedic Meditation (both practical and easy), says: “Meditation takes you to a place of being. We’re human beings, not human doings, or thinkings!” She believes meditation can achieve deeper rest than sleep grants and that it’s the ultimate ancient tool for stress management in our modern lives. If you don’t have an established practice, Dr Knight says to try beginning with breathing meditation in moments of stress and anxiety. “Physically calm yourself by taking deep, slow breaths in through your nose for six seconds, and then slow, long breaths out through your mouth for another six seconds.”
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Happy Saturday. This week I’ve turned a new leaf, which all started on Thursday on @pukkaherbs retreat. This has been a special brand close to my heart for a while now, and are part of my Be Well Collective. I’ve always been aware of just how powerful foods can be, but my knowledge of herbs not so. Until this week. Herbs really can be a life changer. I’ve always been addicted to herbal teas, but listening to a medicinal herbalist and physically making our own tea was so inspiring. My recommendations from the weekend would be: * 🍃 Aswangdhda – helps with mental clarity and clearing a busy mind. Great to take before sleep and at the start of the day. We all need some head space every now and again. * 🍃 Limeflower – I had never heard of this herb. But it helps with crazy dreams and night terrors (yup sign me up!!) I added this herb into my tea and slept like a baby! This is actually the main ingredient in @pukkaherbs night time tea 🍵 * 🍃However I did mention, this is a different Saturday for me. I have started a 4 day meditation course with @londonmeditationcentre who is also involved in my Be Well Collective. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and never made time for. But, in probably one of my busiest month ever – I have! I started last night, was given my mantra – I’ll explain all about this in my stories, and meditated for the first time this morning 🧘♀️ Game changer! Keep up to date with my stories this weekend, as I’ll be giving a video diary 💚 #BeWellCollective #pukkafeelwell #Pukkaherbs #londonmeditationcentre #GameChanger #Weekend
6. Arm yourself with a tool kit
Dr Knight suggests trying various tools to help manage your stress. Some of these might work for you better than others. Try:
Regulating your beliefs and visualisation: Basically, you choose how to react. Decide to react positively to a stressor and conjure up positive images in your mind. “There’s a reason why all professional athletes use this as a key part of their preparation. It really does help,” he says.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Starting from the feet and working all the way up to the head, one by one focus on tensing your muscles, ten seconds at a time, before releasing and completely relaxing them. If you don’t want to do the muscle tension (you may be in public!), simply do a mental scan of your body, from bottom to top, and acknowledge how every part of your body feels along the way.
Take a time out: When you feel stress rising, as little as five minutes of checking out from the chaos can help refocus your mind. It doesn’t matter what you do – just staring at nature can be ideal.
7. Reach out for support
Reach out to a friend or family member, not only when you’re highly stressed but make it a regular ritual. Dr Knight says this is important, because it helps you to remember that there’s life beyond the event that’s causing you stress. And remember, healthcare is always available, no matter where you are. You can contact your GP, a private doctor or a charity.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK